‘Edible Streetscape’ will showcase local food customs

Margaret Street, at the intersection of East Seventh Street, has been changed to a one-way street. The “Edible Streetscape” project will be planting in the large, round planters seen in the newly drawn “bump outs.”

There will be 10 planters along East Seventh Street that will include information cards on where to buy produce and which area restaurants cook with the featured produce.

This summer, East Seventh Street will be a showcase for local food “to honor and share the diverse healthy food traditions that we have on the East Side,” said Tracy Sides, executive director of Urban Oasis.

On May 26, Urban Oasis, along with Urban Roots and the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, will start a project called “Edible Streetscape.”

The project has three goals: To help create a healthier and more walkable environment along East Seventh Street and on the East Side in general, to honor and share the nutritious and diverse food traditions of the East Side, and to illuminate local food connections.

The project has been in the works for a few months now as Urban Oasis took in community input on which plants to grow in 10 planters along East Seventh Street.

The actual growing of the plants will start on May 26, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. during “Community Planting Day.” Anyone is welcome to join, and participants will meet in the garden next to Swede Hollow Cafe, 725 E. Seventh St. From there, youth employees from Urban Roots will be leading 10 groups to plant the 10 planters.

During the growing season, different organizations will be doing walking tours among the 10 large round containers. The planters will include information cards about where people can purchase the produce they see, which restaurants cook with it, and different cultural recipes people can make that include the produce.

Then, on Aug. 6, the project will culminate with a community meal based off the produce grown and the cultural recipes shared with Urban Oasis.

While times for the event are still being worked out, the plan is to cordon off Margaret Street in front of the East Side Enterprise Center, 804 Margaret Street, to make it into a plaza, of sorts.

Lachelle Cunningham, head chef at Breaking Bread Cafe in North Minneapolis, will lead the preperation of the meal.


Using food to connect

“It’s a very universal interest — food,” said Summer Badawi, the market garden program manager at Urban Roots, explaining that food is a way for different cultures to connect on a basic level.

She said Urban Roots has been growing food and employing youth on the East Side for 20 years, adding they are always looking to partner with organizations that hold similar values of sourcing and growing food locally. 

She added that, as many can remember from growing up, being a teen can be hard and it is important to give young people a chance to grow their confidence by giving them leadership opportunities, like leading groups on Community Planting Day.

“The more exposure and opportunity for growth and connection you can provide young people, it allows them to make connections and expand their worldview in their larger community,” said Badawi.


Adding green space

Urban Oasis has also been working with the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council.

“We’re very excited about this project because it moves the work we have been promoting for a number years, it brings it to whole other level,” said Deanna Abbott-Foster, executive director of the community council.

She said the council has been working on ways to make the neighborhood greener and to make it safer for pedestrians.

Abbott-Foster said this project will help bring people to the East Side and will hopefully get them to stop and check out local restaurants and shops.

In addition to creating interest in the neighborhood, “Edible Streetscape” is also tied into a traffic study the community council is working on with St. Paul Public Works.

Margaret Street, in front of the East Side Enterprise Center, has recently been changed to a one way street and “bump outs” have been painted to decrease the amount of street pedestrians have to cross. 

To add depth to the new bump outs, one of the Edible Streetscapes planters has been added to make the change more noticeable and to visualize how a more pedestrian-friendly sidewalk can also add green space.


Long term

Sides, the executive director of Urban Oasis, said her organization has an agreement with the city to rent the planters for three years, so she is hoping the length of the agreement will help make the project a permanent installation in the neighborhood. 

She said she hopes the project will help “create a healthier, more walkable, vibrant community, especially East Seventh Street, and on the East Side in general.”

She encourages East Side residents to share their ideas and recipes for the project at www.tinyurl.com/CommunityFoodSurvey.


Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.

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